Anti-drilling protesters chain selves to DENR offices

Posted October 22, 2012 12:05 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2012 12:35 p.m. EDT

— Several people opposed to natural gas drilling in North Carolina chained themselves to the entrance of state environmental offices in downtown Raleigh on Monday.

The protesters, members of the radical Earth First! environmental movement, said North Carolina's move toward hydraulic fracturing to obtain natural gas would endanger the state's environment and residents.

"All legal channels of protest have been exhausted,” protester Emily Smith said in a statement. “We’ve learned that the legislature and regulators will not protect the water we drink and air we breathe. It’s time for the public to take other types of action to stop hydro-fracking."

The drilling process, commonly referred to as "fracking," involves horizontal drilling into underground shale deposits and then pumping a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into the well to break apart the rock and release its trapped natural gas.

At least a half-dozen people were blocking the doors of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources headquarters on West Jones Street. State Capitol Police blocked off Jones Street for more than an hour as officers waited for the protest to disband.

The protesters began to leave peacefully shortly after noon.

State lawmakers approved legislation over Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto in June to open North Carolina to drilling in as little as two years. A Mining and Energy Commission appointed this summer is drawing up regulations for the industry, which must be approved by the General Assembly before permits can be issued.

The protesters complained that commission was filled with drilling advocates, and they said a DENR study issued last spring underestimated the risks of fracking. They noted the process has caused environmental problems elsewhere.

"We’re not going to let industry destroy North Carolina like they have Pennsylvania," Smith said.